Half of social workers recruited in Northamptonshire last year have already left

Northamptonshire County Council has a high number of vacancies for social workers
Northamptonshire County Council has a high number of vacancies for social workers

Nearly half the number of social workers that Northamptonshire County Council recruited last year have already left their jobs.

The figures, which highlight the real struggles the authority has in retaining staff, have also revealed the council is having difficulties filling vacancies as well.

Lesley Hagger, director for children, families and education at the council, confirmed the staff retention rates to councillors on the children, learning and communities scrutiny committee yesterday morning (June 27).

It came during a verbal update on Ofsted’s latest findings on children’s services across the county, where the watchdog picked up on the high caseload workers had to deal with.

Councillors were told that the authority had hired 172 social workers last year, but that 82 had already left.

Cabinet member for children, families and education, Councillor Victoria Perry, said: “Our workers are not badly paid compared to other places, but it’s the working environment. We are looking at ways in which to work on that. You don’t go into social working for the money, you do it for the love it.”

In a letter to Mrs Hagger, Ofsted inspector Dawn Godfrey said: “Caseloads remain too high. This is impacting negatively on the quality of practice in some teams, and there is a risk that child in need work is overlooked in those teams.”

Councillors were told that there are around 400 social worker posts, and that there is a current vacancy rate of 23 per cent - although a 3.5 per cent vacancy rate was already worked into the budget.

Mrs Hagger said: “We are right to prioritise reducing caseloads, and the only way to reduce caseloads is to employ more staff to make it manageable.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Stanbra said: “So if we work in the 3.5 vacancy rate, then 19 per cent of the current vacancy rate you would be able to fill if you wanted to? So we’re effectively short of 80 workers because we’re unable to fill those roles?”

Tory councillor Richard Auger added: “If this committee is going to prioritise anything then this is it, it’s fundamental and we need to find a solution.”

The committee also examined the performance of schools and heard that there was also a real shortage of teachers in the county, particularly in science and maths.